Gangseo Myeonok 강서 면옥 (City Hall, Seoul)

Coming in at #13 on the list of Seoul’s oldest and best restaurant is the very popular naengmyeon restaurant named Gangseo Myeonok. Open since 1948, they have been serving their refreshingly delicious Pyongyang-style “cold noodles” to the masses near City Hall for over 65 years. In addition to their noodles, they offer a la carte dishes like dolsot bibimbap (rice mixed w vegetables in stone bowl) @ 9,000 won, yukgaejang (spicy beef soup w vegetables) @ 8,000 won, bindaetteok (mung bean n pork pancake) @ 12,000 won, and a variety of BBQ options including premium grade hanwoo (domestic beef) and pork belly for those yearning for some protein. As for my friends and I, we passed on the meat and went straight for their signature dish—mul naengmyeon (literally “water cold noodles”). Their bowl of naengmyeon is served in a large, stainless-steel bowl filled with a generous amount of noodles and (surprisingly) an ungenerous amount of the standard cucumber-pear-meat combination in a very savory chilled beef broth. The first thing that caught my palate’s attention was the very soothing (and addicting) broth, which had a unique flavor coming from the beef brisket and the dongchimi kimchi 동치미 김치 (chilled radish water kimchi) brine; slightly sweet with some fruity tones being present. A quick flashback: my last mul naengmyeon experience was quite disappointing at the legendary restaurant called Woo Rae Oak, leaving me hesitant to try out other “famous” places known for their cold noodles. I have to say, with certainty, this one bowl changed my views on this humble yet simple dish, and I’ll be seeking out other naengmyeon hot spots in the near future. 🙂

Naengmyeon 101: There are two basic varieties of naengmyeon that you need to know about: Pyongyang and Hamheung-style naengmyeon, both originating from our friendly neighbors from the North. The key differences between Pyongyang and Hamheung are easily recognized by naengmyeon lovers, but for those who are new to Korean naengmyeon it can be a little confusing. First off, Pyongyang-style naengmyeon primarily uses maemil 메밀 (buckwheat) for its noodles and then served as mul naengmyeon, literally translated “water cold noodles.” The buckwheat noodles have a softer texture (akin to Japanese soba) than its Hamheung counterpart since the latter uses different starches in its noodles, making for a chewier and firmer texture. Hamheung naengmyeon is more likely to be served as bibim naengmyeon (“mixed cold noodles”) with spicy red pepper sauce and general toppings like strips of radish, cucumbers, and half a hard-boiled egg. Most, if not all, naengmyeon restaurants will have spicy mustard sauce and vinegar available for diners to season the broth according to their preference. Lastly, the noodles will always be served uncut, as they symbolize longevity and good health, but servers will have scissors on hand if you need them cut (which I highly recommended).

“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Food ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

 

Gangseo Myeonok (강서 면옥)

Address: 120-15 Seosomun-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울 중구 서소문동 120-15)

Phone: 02-752-1945

Hours: 11:30am ~ 10pm

Directions via Naver map: http://me2.do/GKFVfB4X

 

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